TEN Realty Group’s charity of the month for April of 2016 is the youth mentoring group Boys to Men. The following is an article I wrote for about their organization for our monthly Sneak Preview article called The 501C3 Files
You may be wondering why I am dedicating this article to one of the top RnB groups of the 90s. Well, their popularity according to Wikipedia
compares them to the Beatles and Elvis. But more importantly, I just find it hard not to think about one without the other. The two have absolutely no connection, but for the fun of it I am going to use some Boyz II Men song titles to help talk about the real subject of this article which is the mentoring group: Boys to Men Southern Oregon (BTMSO).
In a recent conversation I had with Pete Young, one of the founding
mentors of BTMSO, he told me that he regularly gets emails from single
mothers who are struggling with their boys and are desperate for some
help. BTMSO also receives requests to support young men coming out of the juvenile justice system through a partnership with Resolve, a restorative justice organization in Medford which offers Youth/Elder Circles.
According to BTMSO statistics, roughly 75% of the teens in this program come from a single mother household, with limited to no contact with the fathers. Fortunately this isn’t the “End of The Road” for these boys. In fact it is just the beginning, and knowing about this program is certainly “A Song For Mama”.
Pete told me about one young man he has known for years. On one of their first interactions, the boy told him that while he had a father at home, that the situation was highly toxic and emotionally abusive. He was uncertain whether it was better to go home to this awful environment, or to accept life as one of the homeless youths in our area.
BTMSO mentors are trained not to simply tell the boys what to do, but to actively listen to connect, invite them to self-reflect, to learn from their mistakes and consider the impact of their actions. They help them to reframe their stories so they can get a better sense of their inner value as young men.
As Pete says, they have plenty of people telling them what to do. Parents, teachers, authorities. This teenager chose homelessness over the emotionally abusive home. And over the coming years, when Pete saw him on the street, he would take some time to reconnect and talk. Recently Pete was contacted by this same young man who told him that he had found a job, had an apartment and was doing well. He said that having someone who he knew cared and made a real connection with all of those years was one of the things that got him through.
In addition to these Youth/Elder Circles, BTMSO offers several regular programs annually. Inner Mentor Training is for men who want to become mentors. Before the “Water Runs Dry”, there is great need for more good men to step forward to mentor these boys and young men. This is the program for them.
The program for boys from 9 – 13 is the Raven Weekend.
Some bring their fathers and others are matched up with qualified mentors. The next one will be in June, and costs $350. But if “Whatcha Need” is a little help, don’t worry. BTMSO has never turned away anyone who wants to participate based on not having the funds.
The program for 13 – 18 year olds is the Rite of Passage Adventure (ROPA). “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye to Yesterday”, but that is what this program is for. Helping young men understand the transition from being a boy to being a young man.
They also provide a Rite of Passage Celebration Weekend for the 17-18 year old graduates of the ROPA weekend. After this they are invited to continue with the BTMSO community now as men to mentor incoming youth. It is a great way for them to say “Thank You”.
According to Pete, the biggest challenge Boys to Men faces is having enough good men in the program. According to their website, They are not looking for a few perfect men. They are looking for men willing to admit they are not perfect, and willing to share the truth about the struggles all men face.
If you’d like to know more about the Youth/Elder Circles which are available to any youth year round, and for further information on all offerings, visit their website at www.btmso.org. You can register for events or donate money towards the scholarships they provide to families in need of a bit of help.